Going rural

It’s one thing hearing stories. It’s another actually having the experience yourself.

I am fortunate enough to have a few friends who have been, or are currently on, adventures in Africa. I’ve hung on every word of their stories, creating my own movie in my mind of what it is like. And now, here I am on a dirt road, leaving our campsite in the early morning sunlight, following Jane and Prince Lloyd in the land rover leading us into Mumbwa, to meet the District Commissioner and announce our arrival in the area.

The last few visits to iSchool had been sitting in their boardroom, hearing about the amazing work they are doing, and seeing samples of the technology in an attempt to get a feel for their story.

Yesterday morning early we fetched the petite and beautiful Lulu, the Head Teacher of iSchool,to experience iSchool in action. She took us to a school on the outskirts of the city where children walk 10km to get to class, while their parents tend to their subsistence farms.

We were invited into a Grade One class of about 50 children, eight and nine year olds, in time for their number sequence lesson. Big eyes watched us walk in and start unpacking the film gear.

I waved hello and got a sea of eager hands wave back with big smiles. Someone said good morning, and a chorus of little people greeted us back. It’s moments like this that are worth experiencing and taking back as stories to share at dinner parties.

The class started with the children all huddling on the floor in the front of the room. They were not sure if they wanted to look at the lesson being projected, or at us. The teacher powered her laptop, speakers and projector using the lonely, long extension plug as a classmate laptops | Connect Africa | imagesource of power, and with a poor quality projection of the lesson onto a make-shift white screen, consisting of a couple pieces of scruffy beige paper stuck onto the black board.

After Lulu’s recorded voice boomed from the speakers, explaining the concept of number sequences, the children broke into smaller groups with different tasks: some written, some verbal, and the rest on the little, hardy Intel Classmate laptops.

We stood around in amazement watching the children share out the earphones, boot up the laptops and work through the exercises. (see a video clip on facebook here.)

The facial expression when this little person in front of me got the exercise right, and heard the affirmation from the iSchool programme of “Well done!”, was not only a priviledge to witness, but also a another moment to remember and share.

teacher interview | Connect Africa | imageAfter our school visit and interview with Lulu, we headed back to the flat to finish our packing for our five day expedition into more rural areas. After a few hours of ordered chaos and team work, we were packed and leaving Lusaka.

A couple of hours later we drove through Mumbwa to pick up Lloyd from the regional Connect Africa office, and headed to the community nearby. Parking in a clearing next to the community borehole, which the resident Chief had designated as our campsite for the next three nights, we set up camp in the dark, and enjoyed Jane’s yummy sausages and mash for dinner.

With the crows of the 23 plus roosters which woke us up before sunrise in my mind, we’ve pulled up in front of the District Offices, ready to meet the District Commisioner, Sunday Shamabanse, and experience another story to share later.

Written by Telana Simpson
Date of visit to iSchool:  Tuesday 24 July 2012 

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